Tag Archives: Lockheed Martin

A scene never to be repeated again: a sky filled with black stealth fighter jets

On Oct. 27, 2006, twenty-five Lockheed F-117A stealth jets flew over Heritage Park at Holloman Air Force Base during the Silver Stealth event for the F-117’s 25th anniversary.

59 production  “Nighthawk” aircraft (one of those was lost to the Serbian Air Defense during “Operation Allied Force“) served with the U.S. Air Force until the type was retired in 2008: about half of them can be seen flying together in the image taken by Denny Lombard and released by LM’s Code One magazine.

For another impressive air-to-air image of the 25 stealth jets taken during the same event, have a look here.

By the way, isn’t that ironic that 25 aircraft filling the sky would still not appear on radar?

Image credit: Denny Lombard via Lockheed Martin.

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SR-71 Blackbird was so fast it outran every missile, Mig fighter jet encountered over enemy territory

Even if the development of the hypersonic strike aircraft dubbed SR-72 has been recently announced, its predecessor, the iconic Mach 3 SR-71 Blackbird, remains one of the fastest planes ever flown operationally.

When the U-2 reconnaissance aircraft was built, its designer Clarence L. “Kelly” Johnson already knew that it would have become vulnerable to enemy defenses.

So, to gather intelligence in the skies of foreign countries, in 1964 President Lyndon B. Johnson announced that the Lockheed Advance Development Projects, also known as the Skunk Works, built another strategic reconnaissance aircraft, so fast that no other airplane could reach it: the SR-71 Blackbird.

When the SR-71 entered the active service with the U.S. Air Force, its flight characteristics were incredible: it was able to fly at more than three and a half times the speed of sounds at 88,000 feet, over sixteen miles up.

To give an idea of such altitude, the Blackbird took photos from three times the height of Everest and its pilots dressed full pressure suits like astronauts.

During its career, which ceased on Oct. 9 1999 with its last flight, no SR-71 was lost due to hostile actions.

In fact, neither enemy fighters nor enemy surface to air missiles (SAM) were ever able to shoot down or to damage a SR-71.

But the aircraft was never shot down also because it was hardly detected by enemy radars, being the first aircraft featuring stealth technology. Indeed, for the first time a special paint was used for Blackbird’s wings, tail and fuselage: since it contained iron ferrites, this paint absorbed radar energy instead of returning it to the sender.

With an RCS (Radar Cross Section) of a small light aircraft, when the SR-71 was found on radar it was too late for a SAM computer to estimate its direction for a successful kill.

The range and the bearing of the SR-71 was also denied to the enemy by jamming its devices with the use of the sophisticated electronic countermeasures (ECM) transported by the Blackbird.

SR_71 3

Not only SAMs failed to catch the Blackbird: even the the fastest Soviet fighter jets lacked the necessary speed to reach the SR-71.

Soviet pilot Viktor Belenko, who defected to Japan in a MiG-25 on Dec. 6, 1976, confirmed it in its “MiG Pilot” book.

“American reconnaissance planes, SR-71s, were prowling off the coast, staying outside Soviet airspace by photographing terrain hundreds of miles inland with side – angle cameras. They taunted and toyed with the MiG-25s sent up to intercept them, scooting up to altitudes the Soviet planes could not reach, and circling leisurely above them or dashing off at speeds the Russians could not match,” Belenko explained.

However, according to the Mig pilot, Russians tried to intercept and shoot down a Blackbrid, but they always failed this task: “[The Soviets] had a master plan to intercept an SR-71 by positioning a MiG-25 in front of it and one below it, and when the SR-71 passed they would fire missiles. But it never occurred. Soviet computers were very primitive, and there is no way that mission can be accomplished.”

“First of all, the SR-71 flies too high and too fast. The MiG-25 cannot reach it or catch it. Secondly…the missiles are useless above 27,000 meters [88,000 feet], and as you know, the SR-71 cruises much higher. But even if we could reach it, our missiles lack the velocity to overtake the SR-71 if they are fired in a tail chase. And if they are fired head-on, the guidance systems cannot adjust quickly enough to the high closing speed”.

Moreover, as recently told by the former Blackbird pilot Col. Richard H. Graham in his book “SR-71 The Complete Illustrated History of THE BLACKBIRD The World’s Highest , Fastest Plane”, Belenko’s missiles would have not worked because “Most air- to-air missiles are optimized to maneuver in the thicker air below around 30,000 feet in order to shoot down an enemy plane. Firing at the SR-71, cruising at 75,000 feet, the air is so thin that any maneuvering capability of the missile is practically nonexistent.”

Speed is the new stealth is Lockheed Martin’s new slogan. But has worked well for the last 60 years….

David Cenciotti contributed to this story.

SR-71 4

Image credit: U.S. Air Force via SR-71 FB page

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Star Wars Era to come: US Air Force to employ laser cannons on jets by 2030

According to the recently published RFI (Request for Information), the ARFL (Air Force Research Laboratory) is looking forward to development of the laser weapons for next generation fighter jets.

Even if this is an Air Force initiative, it is possible that the Navy and US Army will run similar independent research programs.

The U.S. Air Force plans to employ laser based weapons by 2030.

Based on requirements weapon elements will have to be ready for laboratory test by October 2014, while they must reach readiness for test on a plane and in simulated operational environment by 2022.

Three new laser devices are to be created: small power marking laser, that would act as a marker and as a blinding weapon against the optical sensors of the enemy planes; medium power laser that is to be used against air-2-air missiles; and a high power device to act as an offensive weapon.

The weapon is to be operable up to 65,000 feet of altitude and within a speed envelope of Mach 0.6 – 2.5.

Northrop Grumman is developing a solid state laser for the U.S. Navy, Lockheed Martin is on a 30-month contract to develop a prototype turret in an aircraft for the Aero-Adaptive/Aero-Optic Beam Control (ABC) system, while Boeing works on ground forces solutions, including HEL MD cannon that is to be vehicle mounted. Some solutions have been tested already, e.g.  USS Ponce self-defense system against small vessels.

It must be remembered though, that the laser program is not going to be the first USAF experience with this kind of weapon, since the U.S. Air Force already used ABL on a 747.

That laser was anti-tactical missile weapon, based on Chemical Oxygen Iodine laser, developed within a Boeing program.

Cancellation of that program does not mean nothing has survived. NOTAMs issued since the YAL-1 was retired prove that airborne laser testing has not ceased.

ABL used a laser range finder, tracking laser (TILL – Track Illuminator Laser) and finally BILL (Bacon Illuminator Laser) and it was after that when the target was finally destroyed by the main weapon.

USAF tested a chemical-laser weapon using Lockheed C-130H back in 2009.

The laser weapon that is to be developed will probably be employed firstly on the F/A-XX aircraft, that is to constitute a replacement for the Super Hornet.

Jacek Siminski for TheAviationist

Top image credit: ARFL

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Lockheed Martin releases new High Speed Strike Weapon hypersonic missile concept image

Last week Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works acknowledged the existence of an SR-71 Blackbird, capable to fly at hypersonic speed with a dual ISR (Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance) and Strike capability, dubbed SR-72.

In accordance with the new slogan “speed is the new stealth”, Skunk Works is studying high Mach systems that would give platform equipped with these weapons the capability to strike heavily defended targets, quickly and undetected.

Among LM’s hypersonic programs focusing on both “expendable missiles” and “reusable aircraft”, the High Speed Strike Weapon (HSSW), “a hypersonic missile concept suitable for future bomber and fighter aircraft” was not a secret.

However, there was only one HSSW concept image available.

Until Lockheed Martin released the one you can see on this post that is a bit more detailed (if any detail can be gathered from a rendering) than any previous one.

Image credit: Lockheed Martin

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Lockheed tests new Stealth Long Range Anti-Ship Missile from Vertical Launch System

Lockheed Martin has tested the new LRASM (Long Range Anti-Ship Missile) from an Mk41 VLS (Vertical Launch System) launcher at the White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico.

Last month the first LRASM prototype was launched by a Dyess Air Force Base’s B-1 Lancer bomber on the Point Mugu range, in California.

The LRASM was fired with a BTV (Boosted Test Vehicle), a Mk-114  rocket motor developed by Lockheed Martin alone, already used by VL/ASROC torpedoes.

Lockheed Martin’s Scott Callaway, LRASM surface launch program manager at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control, said:

“This successful flight test reduces the risk of LRASM and VLS integration, the test also validates the Mk-114 rocket motor’s capability to launch LRASM and the missile’s ability to cleanly exit the canister without damaging the missile coatings or composite structure.”

The LRASM can currently be fired from U.S. Air Force B-1s, and will be integrated on the U.S. Navy’s F/A-18 Hornets and warship’s VLS.

Based on the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile Extended Range (JASSM-ER), the LRASM is a stand-off weapon armed with a blast-fragmentation warhead, that can cruise autonomously, day or night, in all weather conditions. The missile features a multi-modal sensor, weapon data link and an enhanced digital anti-jam Global Positioning System to detect and destroy specific targets within a group of ships.

Jacek Siminski for TheAviationist

Image credit: Lockheed Martin

 

 

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